Gov. Rick Scott, President Trump wrong on shooting responses | Editorial
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Massacre, President Trump wants to arm teachers and Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t want to ban assault weapons.
They’re both wrong.
We will get to the other proposals from the governor and the president. First, though, let’s examine why these headline items are such inadequate responses to what happened in Parkland.
Trump claimed Friday that between 10 percent and 20 percent of teachers at any school have military or law enforcement backgrounds that would qualify them to carry concealed weapons on campus and be prepared to respond. The president provided no evidence to support that figure.
Even if we take the idea seriously, imagine the potential problems. Who would set training standards for teachers? What if some schools had no such teachers? What if some parents considered the weapons a threat?
More important, would such teachers respond adequately? The campus cop at Stoneman Douglas spent three decades with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Yet he froze when the shots started. According to FBI figures, armed civilians stopped only 3 percent of all shootings between 2000 and 2013. Unarmed civilians stopped four times as many.
Under Scott, Florida has witnessed the nation’s second-deadliest mass shooting — at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, and the second-deadliest public school shooting — at Stoneman Douglas. In both cases, the shooter used an AR-15 assault weapon.
Yet Scott simply proposes raising from 18 to 21 the age at which someone may buy these military-style weapons. The Stoneman Douglas shooter bought his at 19. The Pulse shooter, however, was 30.
“Banning specific weapons and punishing law-abiding citizens is not going to fix this,” Scott said Friday.
But the Stoneman Douglas shooter was a law-abiding citizen when he bought his AR-15. So was the man who slaughtered 49 people at Pulse. So was the man who killed 58 people at a Las Vegas music festival last October. So was the man who killed 26 people last November at a church in Texas. So was the mother of the Sandy Hook shooter, who used his mother’s weapon to kill 20 first-graders and six teachers.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., the well-known National Rifle Association spokesman, claimed that a ban would be “well outside the mainstream.” He’s wrong. Polls show that more than half of Americans not only support banning assault weapons, they support banning all semi-automatic weapons, a category that covers most firearms on the market.
We’d settle for a compromise: ban high-velocity assault-style weapons, the kind that blow orange-sized holes in people.
As a Broward Health radiologist so eloquently wrote in The Atlantic on Thursday, routine handgun injuries “leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet.”
“The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different; they travel at higher velocity and are far more lethal,” wrote Dr. Heather Sher, a radiologist. “An AR-15 bullet wound to the middle of the liver would cause so much bleeding that the patient would likely never make it to a trauma center to receive our care.”
Scott also proposes spending nearly $500 million to put a police officer in every school and other measures to harden schools. We applaud him for not suggesting that teachers be armed, as legislative leaders suggest. He’s right on that. Still, there are two problems with this as the solution for preventing mass shootings.
First, the Legislature would have to keep allocating this money long after Scott leaves office in January. Second, schools aren’t the only vulnerable places. The Pulse nightclub, the concert venue at Las Vegas and the churches in Texas and Charleston weren’t schools. To harden some targets at great expense — while leaving others vulnerable to weapons that have no rightful place in civilian society — would be a comedy if it weren’t so tragic.
Scott also wants to create a statewide “See Something, Say Something” hotline, with a website and a mobile app. But his cellphone hotline for Hurricane Irma didn’t prevent those deaths at a Hollywood nursing home. Local and federal law enforcement agencies must be held accountable for failing to pursue the warning signs they received about the Parkland shooter, but the answer is not to create yet another number to call. We need to know that alerting the FBI or Broward Sheriff’s Office is sufficient.
Like Scott, Trump wants to work around the margins and not offend the NRA. He said he wants tougher background checks. He said he wants to keep the mentally ill from obtaining weapons, but a year ago he signed legislation that does the opposite. Rubio voted for it.
What’s the proper response? Congress should ban assault weapons. Congress should ban bump stocks. Congress should close the loophole in the background check system that enabled the Texas church shooter to buy his weapon. Congress should recognize gun violence as the national health problem that it is.
We’re happy to hear the governor wants to make Florida a “red flag” state, which would make it easier for law enforcement to take weapons from people whom a judge considers to be a threat to themselves or others. That’s a good thing.
It would also be good if he enforced the state law that requires doctors to alert authorities when they believe mentally ill people discharged from hospitals shouldn’t be able to buy guns. As the Sun Sentinel’s Megan O’Matz has reported, aside from Hillsborough County, it’s barely happening.
Though a state ban of assault weapons wouldn’t keep people from bringing them here, it would be a start until Congress acted. Meanwhile, the Legislature should allow cities and counties to set their own gun laws. For as we all know, no one size fits all, and Parkland is nothing like Pahokee.
After Sandy Hook, Pulse, the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting or any other mass shooting, Scott did nothing on guns or school safety.
Now he faces a likely Senate campaign and an angry electorate.
His responses are better than nothing, but they skirt the main problem. And in November, an angry electorate will remember.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Elana Simms, Andy Reid and Editor-in-Chief Howard Saltz.